President Obama defended the tone of his campaign today, saying his team doesn't "go out of bounds."
The president was asked by CBS's Nancy Cordes if he had compunctions about the tenor of the campaign, saying that "your campaign has suggested repeatedly without proof that Mr. Romney might be hiding something in his tax returns, they have suggested that Mr. Romney might be a felon for the way that he handed over power of Bain Capital, and your campaign and the White House have declined to condemn an ad by one of your top supporters that links Mr. Romney to a woman's death from cancer."
"I'm not sure all those characterizations that you laid out there were accurate," the president said. "For example, nobody accused Mr. Romney of being a felon."
(Last month, referring to documents filed with the Security and Exchange Commission by Bain Capital that consistently listed Romney as the CEO even though he had relinquished that power, Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter said, "Either Mitt Romney, through his own words and his own signature, was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony. Or, he was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people to avoid responsibility for some of the consequences of his investments.")
On his and his campaign's demand that Romney release more than two years of tax returns, the president today said "if you look at the overall trajectory of our campaign and the ads that I've approved and are produced by my campaign, you'll see that we point out sharp differences between the candidates, but we don't go out of bounds. And when it comes to releasing taxes, that's a precedent that was set decades ago, including by Governor Romney's father. And for us to say that it makes sense to release your tax returns, as I did, as John McCain did, as Bill Clinton did, as the two President Bushes did, I don't think is in any way out of bounds. I think that is what the American people would rightly expect…"
"People want to know that, you know, everybody's been playing by the same rules including people who are seeking the highest office in the land," he said.
As for the TV ad from the pro-Obama super-PAC Priorities USA Action that suggests layoffs ordered by Bain Capital played a role in the death of a steelworker's wife, the president said, "I don't think that Governor Romney is somehow responsible for the death of the woman that was portrayed in that ad. But keep in mind this is an ad that I didn't approve, I did not produce and, as far as I can tell, has barely run. I think it ran once. Now, in contrast, you've got Governor Romney creating, as a centerpiece of his campaign, this notion that we're taking the work requirement out of welfare, which every single person here who's looked at it says is patently false, right?"
After detailing the ways the Romney ad on welfare is misleading the president said, "the contrast, I think, is pretty stark. You know, they can run the campaign that they want, but the - the truth of the matter is, you can't just make stuff up. That's one thing you learn as president of the United States. You get called in to account. And I feel very comfortable with the fact that when you look at the campaign we're running, we are focused on the issues and the differences that matter to working families all across America, and that's exactly the kind of debate the American people deserve."
The president insisted that his campaign was focused on "talking about how we put Americans back to work. And there are sharp differences between myself and Mr. Romney in terms of how we would do that. He thinks that if we roll back Wall Street reform, roll back the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known affectionately as "Obamacare," that somehow people are going to be better off. I think that if we are putting teachers back to work and rebuilding America and reducing our deficit in a balanced way, that's how you put people back to work. That is a substantive difference. That's what I talk about on the campaign."
-Jake Tapper and Mary Bruce